I push “3” and the courthouse’s elevator climbs upwards. Ding. I disembark and look for room 209. The heavy doors open, and I step into a sacred celebration.
A process of years, dreams, prayers, endless paperwork, travel, difficulties, joy, hope, and, at the root of everything, LOVE.
I sit on the pew-like wooden bench and face the backs of our friends, Todd and Heather, with their almost-official daughter, Sheena. Her Gotcha Day was September 20th, but the system takes time and nearly fifteen months later, here we sit. This day is long awaited for.
Sheena’s short dark hair bounces with her movement in her chair. She turns to face us, her family and friends, and she flashes the most brilliant smile. Her eyes sparkle behind her glasses.
“Do you have any more questions?” the clerk asks as we wait for the judge to enter.
“What time is it?” Sheena laughs and asks. We echo her laughter as her anticipation and excitement is palpable.
Twelve minutes until it’s time for her to legally become a Bowerly. Until her name forever will be changed. Until it’s officially announced to the world. Until her birth certificate and passport and future driver’s license and any possible thing she’ll ever need to sign will read Bowerly.
Oregon’s stately seal sits behind the judge’s bench, and the west facing door opens.
We stand and receive instructions from the judge to sit.
The next twenty minutes prove beautiful in every way possible. The warm judge directs her attention to Todd and Heather.
“You have chosen Sheena. Of all the girls in the world, she is the one you’ve chosen,” the judge says.
Chosen. The chosen piece began years before this day with a prompting from the Lord and countless faithful steps to walk the unknown journey in hopes of one day being here on this day with this girl, the one they prayed for from the beginning without knowing her name or face.
She asks Todd and Heather, followed by their two sons, Ashton and Luke, if they agree to include and embrace her as their own.
The yes’ reverberate from every corner of the rectangular room.
Then, the judge’s eyes meet Sheena’s.
“Do you agree to be one with this Bowerly family forever more?” the judge asks.
“Yes, yes,” Sheena interrupts.
The judge laughs and claps her hands, “You won’t even let me finish! That’s awesome! Well, your answers have turned this day into a symbolic birthday. And birthdays should always come with presents. I have a small gift for Sheena. This is to help remind you of this day and this bond. There’s a Disney movie called The Little Mermaid in which a girl from another place meets someone she loves and sings about being a part of your world. As you become a part of the Bowerly world, and a part of this foreign land, I want to present you with a little mirror. The idea I have is when you look into this mirror you’ll see the girl that you’ve been and the place that you’ve come from, and also the girl you’re becoming in your new world as part of our world.”
A mirror. A reflection representing so much. It reminds us of where we’ve come from and helps point us to where we’re going while living in the moments of today.
The judge finishes with profound truth every heart craves. Every heart longs for. Every heart rejoices in. Every heart begs in its purest form.
I hear this: “…by the sheer power of love. Where other people fall on differences, you fall on unison. Where others sow discord, you are sowing hope. The love you’ve created together is more powerful than anything the law can do. The law can name your bond for all to see but only if you’ve first chosen each other. Your choice today to be together as a family proves to me that the most important requirement has been met to authorize me to change your lives under the law. That is, you’ve chosen one another with your heart as well as with your minds. That creates a bond that can never be broken. I will now make the law and the eyes of the world match what was all in your hearts. I hereby grant the wish and the petition for adoption, and from this moment forward Sheena, always and forever, the legal bond between you and the Bowerlys can never be broken.”
Choice and love formed an unbreakable bond. When we lean into the combined power of those two words, it enters the depths of our fragile-beating hearts and begins to build a home. Brick by brick. Hammer to nail. A grace-soaked, joy-infused, love-altered, peace-abundant place. Through the adoption process, the Bowerly’s have served as an example of the humble way God has chosen and loved us. Humbling.
The sacredness of this space overwhelms me with joy and reminds me of what Christmas is all about.